Clients and staff involved with the equestrian program at Phoenix House San Diego are excited to receive generous donations from Phoenix House board member John Davies and his friend Terry Brown. This equine therapy program, called Horses Heal Hearts, was created by Stephanie Parisi of the Horse of the Sun equestrian facility in Pine Valley. Stephanie is an inspiring educator who teaches youth in treatment about horse care, behavior, nutrition and riding.
Horses Heal Hearts also helps the youth at Phoenix House Academy learn the value of individual responsibility, positive behavior, and personal growth through the medium of animal care, welfare, and bonding. Juan, a teenage runaway who had been struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression since he was 13, said that he was “scared to death” when he first took part in the program. Over the 12-week course he learned to groom and ride horses and found he had a natural talent. “I was amazed how closely I bounded with my horse,” he says, adding that the experience with horses “opened my heart.” Juan explains that the program boosted his self-confidence, helped him to make up his missing high school credits and inspired him to build a more positive relationship with his parents. Now, encouraged by a professional trainer, he is planning to work with horses as a career.
The horses themselves also benefit from the Horses Heal Hearts program. Teens like Juan, along with Horse of the Sun staff members, have rescued a number of horses from abuse or neglect – one of whom they named, not surprisingly, Phoenix.